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Being willing to depart from the original

From: Digital Painting: Street Scene

Video: Being willing to depart from the original

I shoot a lot of architectural stuff, and when I do, my practice used to be to shoot a facade or a scene without pedestrians in the scene. I mean after all, the subject is the architecture, right? Well, on one occasion I was shooting near the Plaza in Kansas City, where there's a lot of great architecture and I had driven past this area a couple times and I just noted that an early morning light would get some interesting side-lighting on the face of the architecture. So I was shooting this scene and during the shooting of it this little old lady comes walking by and it's kind of like my normal thinking is, okay, I wait till they are out of the scene and I'll take my shot, and then I just hit and it's like well, she is walking through there. I'll just shoot it just for variety.

Being willing to depart from the original

I shoot a lot of architectural stuff, and when I do, my practice used to be to shoot a facade or a scene without pedestrians in the scene. I mean after all, the subject is the architecture, right? Well, on one occasion I was shooting near the Plaza in Kansas City, where there's a lot of great architecture and I had driven past this area a couple times and I just noted that an early morning light would get some interesting side-lighting on the face of the architecture. So I was shooting this scene and during the shooting of it this little old lady comes walking by and it's kind of like my normal thinking is, okay, I wait till they are out of the scene and I'll take my shot, and then I just hit and it's like well, she is walking through there. I'll just shoot it just for variety.

I'm almost certainly not going to use it, but I'll try it, and here's what that shot looked like. Well, the second I reviewed the shots and I saw this it just struck me what a difference a person in the scene makes. I mean if you look at it without it there is a certain I guess loneliness or desolate kind of environment, but you add a person into this scene and all of a sudden there's a new level of interest about the image. Who is this woman, where is she coming from, where is she going, what's in her shopping bag? All of these things start to add a focal point for the scene and as I've talked about before actors in a stage, well it turns out that a lot of these architectural shots I've been doing I was merely shooting the stage without actors on it.

I was assuming that the stage was the actor and once I had this breakthrough and saw this image and realized you need an actor on was really a stage, it really changed for me how to shoot these kinds of images. Another thing it does is it just gives scale to the image. You start to get a sense of how large the buildings are and overall the addition of people really makes these images. And I've since used this little old lady in a number of images. Here's the finished image. I did do these long panoramas of a whole block, and there she is in the center.

The other thing that worked out, and I have to thank her for it, she happened to be in the perfect spot where that's a rest area. We talked about this earlier. And you put her in it, and all of a sudden her detail pops out against that area of non-activity. So when you look at this scene you almost focus right away on her. She is centrally located, she's got that bright red scarf, she's against a black background with the white or the very bright bag she's carrying, all come together for your eye. You want to go that. Even though there is a lot of other detail in this image, it's just a spot that you tend to go to.

So it becomes a focal point for the whole image. Here is she is in another image. Now I got to place her where I wanted to this time and I tried several different locations, but just like the earlier one with the window I had a perfect opportunity with this doorway that was shut and had no detail in it to add her to that location, and without her in this scene it's a nice architectural scene, it's another one of these early-morning shots, but it was dead without an actor on the stage. So the addition of that one person made a big difference in how I've photographed these kinds of scenes now.

The moral of the story is you don't want to be a slave to the original photograph. You always have to be thinking of how can I improve this, how can I add to this, how can I add a storytelling element, for example? And that's where the addition of these actors on the stage make a huge difference. Now another thing I want to mention while we're covering this subject is looking at illustration work is a great place to get a lot of ideas for this. And in the mid 50's maybe a little earlier and up to the 60's was an era called the golden age ofillustration. It's before photography took over, and in that earlier era illustrators or painters did all kinds of illustration work for magazines and books and novels.

Their ability to tell a story in a dramatic way is unparalleled, and so I recommend that you spend some time looking at that era of illustration and some of the names I can give you that are really big to look at is Norman Rockwell for sure, N.C. Wyeth is another one, Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker, Bernie Fuchs, all these guys were masters at adding extra elements to an image to create a sense of drama.

Now let me just show you one other example of not being a slave to the original. This is the image we played with earlier where I corrected the perspective and this just happens to be my daughter's sorority house that she lived in when she was going to college. And we wanted to do something with this image and the idea was why not take this scene, which I had to shoot at towards the end of summer, and we used it for an auction item, a print, and we wanted to do a autumn scene.

So you can see here, I've done a lot of changes to this image. It's still based on the photograph, but I changed it quite a bit in order to add a sense of charm and illustration to it that wasn't in the original image. Now here's one case where I didn't add a person in the image and I could have, but we did really want to focus on the house itself. Then the next year we wanted, they said, can you do another one? And so I thought wouldn't it be interesting to do the same scene, different season? And so here yet again is another rendition of that same original scene, but now I've completely changed its character through adding snow and wintry sky and taking leaves off the trees, so all of this combines to take an original image and in many cases steer it very far off of what its original content was.

So the idea is, behind my whole little epistle here, is that you don't want to get stuck on the original image, and if you're a photographer that's especially hard. Besides destroying photographic detail, altering a photograph is very hard for photographers to do. Both of these are in direct opposition to the vocabulary of photography. They are however key elements in the language of painting. So don't be afraid to utilize these powerful elements in the service of expressive painting.

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This video is part of

Image for Digital Painting: Street Scene
Digital Painting: Street Scene

45 video lessons · 15038 viewers

John Derry
Author

 
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  1. 8m 50s
    1. Welcome
      1m 11s
    2. Using the exercise files
      39s
    3. Installing custom brushes
      7m 0s
  2. 22m 3s
    1. Understanding the visual vocabulary
      4m 46s
    2. Using the vocabulary of photography
      6m 41s
    3. Using the vocabulary of painting
      7m 1s
    4. Looking at reality through a mental painting filter
      3m 35s
  3. 10m 22s
    1. Understanding that resolution is in the brush strokes
      3m 6s
    2. Understanding the subject
      7m 16s
  4. 16m 1s
    1. Removing lens distortions
      2m 33s
    2. Using the Free Transform tool
      4m 42s
    3. Using the Lens Correction filter
      4m 36s
    4. Understanding the ACR lens correction profiles
      4m 10s
  5. 12m 23s
    1. Working with Vibrance
      3m 14s
    2. Using the Match Color command
      2m 59s
    3. Understanding the traditional paint color swatch set
      6m 10s
  6. 16m 6s
    1. The eye has a bettor sensor than a camera
      3m 16s
    2. Using the Shadow/Highlight filter
      3m 17s
    3. Using the HDR Toning filter
      5m 23s
    4. Understanding how RAW files provide malleability
      4m 10s
  7. 14m 42s
    1. Working with the Reduce Noise filter
      2m 50s
    2. Working with the Surface Blur filter
      3m 6s
    3. Using Smart Blur for simplification
      2m 51s
    4. Working with the Topaz Simplify plug-in
      5m 55s
  8. 31m 10s
    1. NDLP: A creative safety net
      5m 1s
    2. Using custom actions
      9m 41s
    3. Using the reference layer
      5m 29s
    4. Cloning layers
      6m 5s
    5. Working with the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer
      4m 54s
  9. 17m 28s
    1. Brush categorization
      10m 1s
    2. Working with canvas texture
      3m 41s
    3. Using Sample All Layers
      3m 46s
  10. 12m 48s
    1. Being willing to destroy detail
      7m 21s
    2. Establishing the painting style
      5m 27s
  11. 25m 1s
    1. Simplified indication
      9m 3s
    2. Understanding color
      4m 10s
    3. Introducing texture
      11m 48s
  12. 17m 36s
    1. Providing rest areas for the eye
      6m 55s
    2. Focusing on the subject through detail
      10m 41s
  13. 24m 20s
    1. Being willing to depart from the original
      6m 48s
    2. Creating detail to enhance the artwork
      8m 36s
    3. Creating physical surface texture effects
      8m 56s
  14. 10m 33s
    1. Waiting a day
      4m 14s
    2. Examining your importance hierarchy
      6m 19s
  15. 57s
    1. Goodbye
      57s

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